Eugene Nicholas Cobbs
Cocaine dealer behind largest-ever West Virginia bust escapes from prison camp
A drug dealer who disappeared in 2004 after crashing his cocaine-filled plane in Wheeling, W.Va., leading to an international federal manhunt, is again on the loose after he walked away from the federal prison camp in Morgantown on Wednesday.
Federal marshals are hunting for Eugene Nicholas Cobbs, 42.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons said he was missing during a 4 p.m. headcount at the minimum-security facility on Wednesday, although the Marshals Service was not notified that he was gone until seven hours later.
Mr. Cobbs was last seen at the prison facility at noon Wednesday.
Alex Neville, supervisor for the Marshals Service in Clarksburg, W.Va., said authorities believe Mr. Cobbs had help in escaping and is no longer in the area.
Mr. Cobbs, sentenced to seven years in federal prison for dealing coke, was transferred to the prison camp in February from a federal penitentiary in New Jersey.
It wasn't immediately clear why he was moved, although federal inmates are often transferred to lower-security facilities for good behavior.
Mr. Neville said he could not comment on why a man who had previously been the subject of a manhunt was allowed to be housed in a prison camp, which has no perimeter security beyond a three-foot fence.
Mr. Cobbs crashed his Piper Aerostar on Dec. 18, 2004, at Wheeling-Ohio County airport, leaving behind 525 pounds of cocaine worth $24 million, the largest haul of coke ever recovered in West Virginia.
He was on the run for four years until the Marshals Service captured him in Mexico in 2008.
Mr. Cobbs, who is originally from Philadelphia and uses several aliases, also triggered a state grand jury investigation of the Pennsylvania driver's license system because he was using a fake state ID.
That case resulted in charges against more than 45 people accused of using stolen or fake identities to get driver's licenses.
In Mr. Cobbs' case, the state grand jury said he used a counterfeit Arkansas birth certificate and Social Security card, along with a fraudulent letter from the Social Security Administration, to acquire a license in the name of Marquis Munroe, who turned out to be a 13-year-old in Philadelphia.
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NTSB Identification: IAD05CA025.
The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Nonscheduled 14 CFR
Accident occurred Saturday, December 18, 2004 in Wheeling, WV
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/30/2006
Aircraft: Smith, Ted Aerostar 601P, registration: N60CF
Injuries: 1 Minor.
NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.
The pilot attempted a night landing on a taxiway in front of the control tower, which was closed at the time. The airplane overran the end of the taxiway, rolled down an embankment and struck trees. The pilot, whose identity was not confirmed, was believed to have incurred minor injuries. He subsequently paid a passerby to take him to a local hotel, and after a night's rest, he left the area. Ownership of the airplane could not be determined due to a recent sale. Approximately 250 kilos of cocaine were found onboard the airplane. Further investigation was being conducted by federal authorities and local law enforcement.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The pilot misjudged his distance/speed, and his intentional landing on an unsuitable taxiway at night. A factor in the accident was the night light conditions.